By Don Martin
Many who profess to be Christians seem to strive for what they believe to be the minimum service to God. They endeavor to have just enough (what is enough?) knowledge, teaching of others, love, etc., to get by. This attitude, however, is not taught or sanctioned in the New Testament. Instead, the New Testament stresses and enjoins the maximum (doing our sincere best). As Christians, we are to be spiritually ambitious.
A word which beautifully suggests spiritual ambition is the word “abound.” W. E. Vine defines the word rendered “abound” (perisseuo) as follows: “To exist in abundance” (An Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words, pages 17,18). Joseph Thayer wrote thus regarding perisseuo, “to be in affluence …. to be pre-eminent . . . to overflow,” (Thayer’s Lexicon, page 505). The word perisseuo is used about 39 times in the New Testament and 15 times out of the 39 it is rendered “abound.”
Abound In Faith
“Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith . . . ,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians (all emphasis throughout mine, DM). Hence, the Christians at Corinth were to abound in faith. Moreover, the scriptures are replete with teaching concerning our striving to possess this measure of faith. The besetting sin of Israel was the sin of unbelief-absence of trust and confidence in God as their provider and protector (Heb. 3:12-19). In other words, they failed to abound in faith. We must endeavor to possess faith which exists in abundance, the kind of faith which is pre-eminent and overflowing (cf. Acts 27:25).
Abound In Hope
Paul wrote, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 15:13). Our hope consists of our belief in and longing for that which we have not seen, heaven (Rom. 8:24,25; 2 Cor. 4:18-5:9). This hope is the “one hope of our calling” (Eph. 4:4). Hope, in serving as an anchor, stabilizes and keeps our soul (Heb. 6:19). Beloved, notice what Paul is teaching: not only are we to possess hope regarding heaven and the world to come, but we are to abound in this hope. Hope is to be overflowing!
The scriptures also teach that we should not be satisfied with what we consider enough love to get by; but that we are to abound in love: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (Phil. 1:9). Thus, we must constantly seek to develop and multiply our love for God and others (Matt. 22:37,39; 1 Thess. 3:12). As a result of cultivating our love, it can and will exist pre-eminently. By thus abounding in love, love will be the control and motivation of our lives (1 Cor. 13:1-7; Gal. 5:6).
Again, “Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance . . .” (2 Cor. 8:7). I think it is obvious that the “utterance” of this passage has reference to, or at least involves, teaching. Abounding in teaching is consistent with “holding forth the word of life” and “earnestly contending for the faith” (Phil. 2:16; Jude 3). Overflowing in teaching reminds one of the language of Jeremiah: “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name, but His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay (stop) (Jer. 20:9).
The scriptures teach that we are to “add” knowledge, “increase” in knowledge, and “grow” in knowledge (2 Pet. 1:6; Col. 1:10; 2 Pet. 3:18). The word of God also emphasizes knowledge by showing the consequences of the absence of knowledge. Without knowledge we are blind and cannot see afar off (2 Pet. 1:5,10,11), unable to walk pleasingly to God (Col. 1:9,10), and unable to approve the things which are excellent (Phil. 1:9,10).
To accent not only the imperativeness of possessing knowledge but also of having it to a large measure Paul wrote, “Therefore, as ye abound in everything; in faith; and utterance, and KNOWLEDGE . . .” (2 Cor. 8:7). Hence, we are to strive to possess knowledge to the degree of it being in abundance and overflowing.
Virtuous Manner of Life
“Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus,” Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more” (1 Thess. 4:1). The Laodiceans had become satisfied with their spiritual progress and development (Rev. 3:16,17). Alas, many today are “neither cold nor hot” (Rev. 3:15). If we are not careful we will cease to increase in holiness and sanctification of life (1 Thess. 4:4-7). Paul stated that not only are we to abound in a walk that is pleasing to God but we are to “abound more and more.”
In addition to abounding in faith, hope, love, teaching, knowledge, and a virtuous manner of life, we also are to abound in giving (2 Cor. 8:7) and in diligence. Christian, are you striving for the maximum-are you abounding? “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
Truth Magazine XXII: 26, pp. 428-429
June 29, 1978